The average time most doctors spend with their patients during each visit is just 20 minutes, according to 2009 estimates by the National Center for Health Statistics. And a survey last year by health care consultant group Press Ganey determined that before patients even get in to see a doctor, they’ve waited an average of 23 minutes.
But while health care professionals have offered advice on how to minimize waits andhow to make the most of your one-on-one time with a doctor, few have ever addressed a hurdle that many black patients may face — racial bias.
In a study published in a March issue of the American Journal of Public Health, researchers found that two-thirds of doctors harbored “unconscious” racial biases toward patients. When those biases were present, researchers found that doctors tended to dominate conversations with African-American patients, pay less attention to their personal and psychosocial needs and make patients feel less involved in making decisions about their health.
“It’s been really extensively shown that minorities don’t receive the same quality of health care as whites in the United States,” said Lisa A. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., a professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “I’ve been interested in the extent to which that is accounted for by the fact that a lot of minorities see physicians who are different from them culturally and racially, and that there might be some problems with cultural misunderstandings or miscommunication.”
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